Did you know that state and federal laws prohibit people from charging you up-front for help with foreclosure prevention, or with lowering your interest rate? Collecting your money first, before help is provided, is illegal and a scam. If you are behind on your mortgage or think you may miss a payment, you have likely options.
Scam artists often target homeowners who are struggling to meet their mortgage commitment or anxious to sell their home. While all homeowners are vulnerable to these scams, scam artists tend to target people of color, the elderly, and those with limited English.
COMMON SCAM TACTICS
- The scam artist (sometimes posing as an attorney) tells you that he/she can negotiate a deal with your lender to save your home – if you pay a fee. Once you pay, the scam artist takes off with your money.
- You are asked to make all your mortgage payments directly to the scam artists while they negotiate with the lender. After collecting your payments for a few months, the scammer disappears with your money and you still owe the lender.
- You think you’re signing documents for a new loan to make your existing mortgage current—but instead, you have given the scammers ownership – the deed to your home.
- You surrender the title to your home as part of a deal that allows you to remain in your home as a renter, and buy it back later. But you lose all rights, and the scammer takes the equity in your home.
- A scam artist offers to find a buyer for your home, but only if you sign over the deed and move out. Once you transfer the deed, the scam artist rents out the home and pockets the proceeds while the foreclosure continues. You lose your home—and you’re still responsible for the unpaid mortgage.
AVOIDING A SCAM
- Beware of anyone who asks you to pay a fee in exchange for lowering your interest rate or modifying other terms of your mortgage, or for other help with foreclosure prevention.
- Never make a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage company without the mortgage company’s approval. And beware of anyone who tells you to stop communicating with your mortgage company.
- Beware of anyone who guarantees their help. While organizations who provide this service have experience, there is never a guarantee that foreclosure mediation will work.
- Beware of people who pressure you to sign papers immediately or who try to convince you that they can “save” your home if you sign or transfer over the deed to your house.
To report a suspected rescue scam and investigate whether you can get your money back, notify the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council at 414-278-1240. There is no charge for the Fair Housing Council’s help.